Monthly Archives: April 2020

Nature coloring for kids (and grownups)

Parenting has suddenly become exponentially more challenging. Overnight, we have had to fill all the roles for our kids–teachers, friends, extended family, the friendly barista at the coffee shop, etc–all while dealing with the emotional fallout (for the kiddos and for ourselves). Phew. Let’s take a minute to acknowledge: this is hard.

Pages from Pollinators-of-Alaska-coloring-bookWay back in the old days, like a month ago, nature was a huge part of my parenting. In a world that bombards us with screens, superheros, and shopping, I have always struggled to push the focus back onto the outdoors. Ideally, I do this by actually being outdoors: one of the beautiful things about little kids is that a 300 foot trail, or a pullout by the bay, can offer an hour of adventure and exploration.

But now most parks and open spaces are closed. We still get out in the yard, but sometimes even that isn’t possible – like when mama has work from home. One resource that I discovered keeps my little one entertained (and my outdoorsy heart happy) has been nature-based coloring pages; I send her to wait by the printer, and she’s delighted when a new one pops out. If I space them out properly, the print-and-color cycle might keep her happy for 45 minutes, or more. This time is like gold, people.

Here are some links to a few different pages that I liked; I’m sure you can find a lot more on your own. And if you have no kids, you might enjoy them anyway, to de-stress and take your mind on a little nature vacation.

  • 20 pages of National Parks, here from You have to create an account, but it’s fast and free (scroll to the bottom of the page to download all at once).
  • This is a really great one, here. In addition to coloring a cactus wren or a desert landscape, you can do an artcic brine maze or an ant head matching game! And on and on. Feather anatomy, comparing arm bones in people and bats, a biome matching game… SO FUN, for joyful nerds of all sizes! From Arizona State University’s “Ask A Biologist” program.
  • Pollinators of Alaska coloring book, here, from Glacier Bay National Park.
  • California rare animals coloring book, here, from California State Parks.
  • A variety of National Park scenes, here, from USA Printables (the interface is a little clunky, but the selection is good)
  • John Muir Laws’ website is an absolute wealth of free drawing instructions – adults and older kids might want to check out the “how to draw birds,” “how to draw mammals,” and “how to draw plants” pages; (be sure to check out the sidebars on the right for tons of related videos, tutorials, and other links!). There are a lot of resources for teachers too–which we all are at the moment. However, for my little one I just selected some of the non-colored images and printed those for her to color in (for example, this one from the “how to draw a bewicks wren” tutorial, or this one from the “simplifying bird plumage” tutorial).
  • Wildflowers of the Colorado Mountain tops, here, by the US Forest Service, is nice because it includes some extra sciency detail if you want it.
  • A selection of animals, plants, culture, and history, here, from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
  • Coloring and games from New Jersey parks, here – bark identification! Word search! word scramble!
  • How cool is this Color Our Collections project, with free, colorable images from all sorts of museums?? There are all sorts of subject, but most are nature/science/history related.
  • Still need more? Here are some free single coloring pages, sorted by category – birds, mammals, reptiles, molluscs, etc. Go to town!

What kind of nature art are you all doing while in quarantine? I’d love to hear about it!



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A poem for this morning

Some times a poem comes along that perfectly reflects the moment. This morning, as I’ve been watching the tule fog clear over an unkempt garden, here is sun silvering on the twigs. Here are the tangled briars, the misted orchard, just as they did for David Whyte, one easter in Wales.


Easter Morning in Wales

(by David Whyte)

A garden inside me, unknown, secret,
Neglected for years,
The layers of its soil deep and thick.
Trees in the corners with branching arms
And the tangled briars like broken nets.

Sunrise through the misted orchard,
Morning sun turns silver on the pointed twigs.
I have woken from the sleep of ages and I am not sure
If I am really seeing, or dreaming,
Or simply astonished
Walking toward sunrise
To have stumbled into the garden
Where the stone was rolled from the tomb of longing.

If I have a religion, it is one of soil and season. If I have a church, it is forest and field. Because of this, I have always felt conflicted about the churchy claims to this holiday. However, it seems deeply appropriate that there should be a celebration right about now, as nature is gloriously, celebratorily unfurling into spring splendor all around us. And I am grateful that we have a holiday that glorifies nature – the flowers, the eggs, the bunnies – however cartoonified. It is better than nothing. If I had my druthers, our en masse ritual would be more akin to the pagan Eostre, and fall on the actual equinox (this year, recently passed on March 28th). But I also feel there is power in collective celebrations, and so this morning, while I watched the banners of fog retreat from the pasture, my daughter gleefully rummaged for eggs in the basket a magical bunny brought. Later, we will go look for calypso orchids, and watch the bluebirds recently returned to their favorite fenceline, and allow ourselves to remain – as Whyte says – simply astonished.


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Along an empty coast

It feels unsettling to drive north along nearly empty roads. Other cars are few. Puddles stand in empty pullouts, blocked by a ragtag assembly of orange cones, sandwich boards, sagging yellow caution tape.


Over the last month I have watched the activity along this stretch of coast drop off nearly inconceivably. I make this drive weekly, driving north along Highway 1, bringing essentials to a relative with COPD. Three weekends ago, the beaches were packed to the gills. By last weekend the pullouts had blocked off—yet I still lost count of the cars parked in pullouts, and people down on the beaches, flouting the closures. This Sunday beaches were deserted, the pullouts empty. Not a single car parked, and few on the move. People have finally gotten the message—stay home.

Yet the gulls still wheeled. The cormorants still perched, sentinels, on their rocky islands. Below the bluffs, the sand was unmarred by footsteps. The brilliant orange spires of Indian paintbrush are in full bloom, waving from the shelter of the coyote brush As I waited at a stoplight, looking out to sea for passing whales, I could feel to my bones how most life on this planet is untroubled by the human crisis that has come to seem all consuming.

In a flash, a dream I had years ago tumbles vividly into mind. I was approaching the Golden Gate Bridge on foot. The road was quiet—two-lane tarmac with a sunny yellow line down the middle; bright green grass grew in tufts on the verge. No cars passed. There was no plot to the dream; no climax. It was a moment, and I was happy, at ease.

It is hard to find ease in this moment in time. The emotional weight of a world anxious, suffering, and grieving simultaneously is unprecedented, and most are feeling it keenly. The last weeks have been grown harder for those of us who gain our grounding and solace from being in nature, as our access has—necessarily—been restricted. These days I am finding solace in the most unexpected places: a crow feather under the neighborhood oaks, the joy with which my daughter shows me treasures: lichen, a mushroom, a handful of grass.

And so, behind the wheel, I’m grateful for a sweet moment of understanding that the web of life keeps unspooling its grace throughout all.


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